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  Sunday, 9 September, 2001, 22:55 GMT 23:55 UK
The end of the Sampras reign?
Sampras is one of the finest players of all-time
Sampras is one of the finest players of all-time
Pete Sampras looked a shadow of the tennis player who had won 13 Grand Slam titles when he lost to Lleyton Hewitt in the US Open final.

BBC Sport Online wonders whether this is the end for Pistol Pete.

Sunday, 9 September may have been the date that saw a legend compete in his final Grand Slam.

American Pete Sampras, winner of 13 Grand Slam titles, was defeated in embarrassing fashion by young pretender Lleyton Hewitt in the final of the 2001 US Open.

The scoreline only told half the story.

Sampras looked desperate and distraught in front of a shocked Flushing Meadows crowd.

It was not the Pete Sampras people were used to seeing during the fortnight of action and during his imperious 13-year career.

But the Sampras slide down from greatness began at last year's US Open final when young Russian hotshot Marat Safin blew away the ageing American gunslinger.

Safin's destruction of the man who had dominated the game for 10 years seemed to suggest that the new generation's time had come.

  Pete Sampras factfile
BornWashington DC, 12/8/71
Height 6' 1"
Turned pro 1988
World ranking 10
Career singles titles 63
Grand Slam titles 13
Career prize money $41.425m
Sampras, despite his own protestations to the contrary, seemed to be yesterday's man.

The past 12 months have done little to dispel the illusion.

He has have failed to win a tournament since that crushing three-set defeat on a remarkable evening in New York 364 days ago.

And he also lost to 19-year-old Swiss Roger Federer at this year's Wimbledon, where between 1993 and 2000, Richard Krajicek was the only other man to win the title.

But Sampras has already claimed his place, quite possibly at the top of men's tennis' hall of fame.

But Sampras - the youngest winner of the US Open mens' title in history - is not yesterday's man just yet.

When Sampras won his seventh Wimbledon title in 2000, he passed Roy Emerson's total of 12 Slams to become the most successful male tennis player in history.

Sampras first won the US Open aged 19
Sampras first won the US Open aged 19

He has also won four US Open titles and two Australian Open titles. The only blot on his career record is never having won the French Open on the clay at Roland Garros.

He finished number one in the year-end rankings for six consecutive years, more than any other player in history.

He has collected 63 career titles, the highest among players currently on the circuit and fourth on the all-time list, and won an astonishing 29m career prize money.

And, perhaps most pertinently, he has won at least one Grand Slam every year since 1993.

That he no longer has the all-consuming desire for the game he once had is beyond dispute.

Flogging around the world day in, day out to play tennis from Tashkent to Tokyo no longer holds the same appeal for Sampras.


I don't want to be remembered as a comedian or an entertainer, but as the man who won the most Grand Slams in tennis
Pete Sampras
But when it comes to the Slams the competitive fires soon start burning, and when Sampras brings down the heat he can take on an opponent from any generation.

It may perhaps be too early for the public to write off Sampras.

As mentioned above, Sampras was in scintillating form during the earlier rounds blowing away last year's champion Safin and Andre Agassi in consecutive rounds.

The American has the skill and the guile, but whether he has the same mental appraoch and toughness when it comes to the final hurdle is questionable.

It is a question that no critic can answer, only Sampras.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
US Open winner Lleyton Hewitt
"He's capable of winning Grand Slams still "
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Links to more US Open tennis stories are at the foot of the page.


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